Corporate boards not always complying with retention policies: survey

Corporations need to pay more attention to information governance, a recent survey has found.

A survey of global corporations' corporate and company secretaries and general counsel, conducted by Thomson Reuters Governance, Risk & Compliance, found that corporate boards aren’t necessarily in compliance with their corporations’ document-retention policies.

“Information governance, which in practice can be very difficult, may not be a major priority for many corporations, but needs to be applied and practised,” said Ely Razin, head of business law and governance at Thomson Reuters.

“When sharing business-critical information with their boards, corporations must be able to manage their information effectively and appropriately, and also know where the information resides. And information governance is critical so that directors and executives can manage and authenticate the information’s validity and chain of custody.”

Eighty-one per cent of those surveyed said board e-mails and communications are included in the corporation’s document-retention policy. But 70 per cent were unsure if board members are in compliance with the corporation’s document-retention policies. More specifically, 70 per cent didn’t know if board members destroyed all paper copies of board-related e-mails, etc.

This poses a security threat to corporations. For example, if a corporation was required to conduct a discovery process, it would need to check all board members’ computers, files, and other data storage, which would likely be time-consuming and expensive.

“As corporations face daily challenges surrounding their information and its security, document retention and discovery at the board level is emerging as an increasing issue,” added Razin.

“Many corporations have not harnessed all the benefits that technology can provide to protect the organization and its board members.”

Get the full 2011 Thomson Reuters Board Governance Survey here.

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